Jr. Developers #4: Don’t Be Afraid of Meetups

Hi Jr. Devs 🙌,

Everyone keeps telling you to go to meetups. But you’re not doing it because you’re afraid.

Let’s fix that.

In this post I’m going to cover:

  • A strategy you can use for meeting/networking with strangers
  • Why going to meetups will be good for you 💯
  • How to make a good first impression when meeting people

I’ve been talking with a lot of Jr. Developers lately who are interviewing and looking for their first or next job. They are doing all the right things. Maintaining a blog, working on side projects. All the things that people tell you to do when looking for a developer job.

These jr. devs keep asking what else they should be doing.

And I always say: go to meetups! 🌟

Guess how many of them actually do it?

ZERO!

And it really bums me out. Because there are huge benefits to getting involved in your local tech community.

As a jr. dev there are many things you just don’t know about yet. Being in the same room with more experienced developers will expose you to ideas/tools/tricks you didn’t know existed.

The majority of my “oh my gosh, this blows my mind, how’d I not know this?!” moments have come conversations I’ve had with more experienced developers.

If you’re looking for a job, there is also the added benefit of meeting the people you could potentially want to work with. Meetups are your opportunity to walk right up to them and say hi 👋.

But I’m Scared

Most people avoid meetups because it’s a little scary. Walking into a room where you don’t know anyone can be frightening.

When I was first starting out, I felt this way too.

Here’s the strategy that worked for me.

The “talk to anyone standing alone” strategy

You can read about this in many places. I certainly didn’t invent it. I’m not sure if it has an official name. But I’ll call it the “talk to anyone standing alone” strategy. This works for all types of meetups, parties/events. It’s especially effective at tech meetups because they tend to skew towards a more introverted crowd. So the likelihood of finding someone standing alone is very high.

Here’s how it works:

When you get to the meetup, first visit the snack table. Grab yourself something to eat. While you’re doing this, scope out the room. I guarantee you will see a couple people awkwardly standing alone, waiting for the main event/talk to start.

These people are feeling exactly like you. Probably a little nervous, and not sure what to do with themselves. Wishing they had someone to talk to.

Walk right up to one of these people and say hello!

If you watch their face, you’ll often see a sense of relief. By walking up to them and starting a conversation, you’ve just saved them from standing alone. You’re doing them a favor and you’ve potentially just met someone with similar interests as you.

Let’s review

  1. Go to snack table
  2. Look around for people standing alone
  3. Walk up to them an say hello
  4. Booyah, you’re officially networking!

I said Hello, what now?

Next, your goal should be to listen more and talk less than the other person. Being a good listener is the easiest way to ensure you make a good first impression. If you’re confused about how listening could possibly be effective, go read How To Win Friends and Influence People (seriously, go read/learn this. It will be more valuable to you than most of your tech skills).

Plus, you’re there to learn. I know that talking about yourself feels good, but you’re not gaining anything from doing it. Listen as much as possible.

What to talk about

If you’re nervous about not having things to talk about, prep a few different topics in advance. This may seem weird. But it’s much better than standing there awkwardly staring at your shoes and mumbling something about the soda selection at the snack table.

By going to a meetup you already have a topic built in. Do a little research before the event on what is being presented that night.

  • Have you seen [tonights presenter] before?
  • Do you use this library they are talking about?

If that fails, there are a bunch of other things developers love talking about:

  • Have you been to this meetup before? do you go to any others?
  • What language/framework are you using?
  • I’ve just started using the Atom editor, have you tried it?
  • Work on anything cool lately?
  • How big is your team? do you use scrum?
  • How do you get code from development to production?

Keep doing it

This experience will be very similar to learning anything else. The more you do this, the less awkward it will feel. Soon you’ll forget the days where you were ever nervous walking into a meetup.

Now, go do it!

Visit meetup.com. Find a local event you’re interested in. Go to it and say hello to some strangers! 💯

I’m rooting for you!!


This article is part of the Jr. Developers series. To start from the beginning, go here: Jr. Developers #0: Hello World
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